Friday, May 26, 2017


I will be the first to admit that when someone first suggested that we, as Oklahomans, get an annual pass for Walt Disney World I thought they were certifiably NUTS!

Then I started doing my research and we soon purchased our first annual passes.  That was over 30 years ago and we have never regretted our purchases of an annual pass (AP) every few years.

When you first see the cost of an annual pass you are very likely to gasp and say “this is definitely NOT shoestring budget travel”, but it will all work out IF you are a frequent visitor.

Because I am writing this in the spring of 2017 I will use the current prices of the various tickets, although our most recent passes were purchased in the late fall of 2016 at a slightly lower rate and with a few extra benefits.  Those benefits I will mention as I go along so you can see why we purchased it when we did.

Say you are going to go on a two week vacation to Walt Disney World and plan on going into one park or another for 10 days of the 14.  Hey laundry has to happen sometime right?

Disney now has a number of ticket options.  What ticket works best for your family only you know.

Gary and I no longer do the water parks, so the water park option is not one we even consider when purchasing tickets.  You on the other hand may want to do mainly water parks, so your numbers will vary from the scenario I am building. They do have, I believe it is two, water park add on options for the annual passes

Park hopper is mandatory as far as we are concerned.  Many a day we start in one park and end in another. 

No black out dates, is another biggie for us.  We want to go, when we want to go.  If we are foolish enough to be there during super peak times.  That is our  choice. We simply do not like being told we can't use the AP on certain days.  You could of course go those blackout dates, but you would have to purchase tickets for those dates and it would defeat the purpose of the AP.  So we just go with the no blackout dates option. 

Based on these options a 10 day pass with park hopper and no blackout dates would be, according to the website, is currently $548.48 each. 

An annual pass good for 366 days from the day of first use. You can purchase the pass ahead of time and the days do not start ticking off until you actually use it. This is particularly handy if you are making your plans early in the year and you aren’t going until after the annual rate hike later in the year. Or if you want to pre-pay all you can before you hit the parks. 

The annual pass currently, May 14, 2017 costs $829.64.  Don’t gasp there is a whole lot more to the annual pass than just admission. Even at that you are paying less than $300 more for 356 additional days.

When we purchased our 2016/2017 ticket they were running an anniversary special and we got 13 months for the price of 12. Considering the fact by today’s date, May 14, 2017 we have already gone into the parks over 20 times that has paid for the price difference right there and we still have five months to go on our pass.  However, the argument can be made that if we didn’t have the AP then we wouldn’t have gone in that often. So you need to consider that in your planning as well.

Before retirement we would make a minimum of two ten day trips almost a year apart so that right there would pay for the price difference of the two tickets (two ten day tickets vs the annual pass).  We often also made one or two long weekend trips down from Oklahoma, just the two of us by catching air fare on sale and using pre-purchased gift cards at a discount (see Paying for Your Magical Trip post) to save more money.  

The AP includes FREE Memory Maker downloads, this was new in 2016 but it appears they have decided to keep this bonus, which is a wonderful one.  These are photos taken by the Disney photographers throughout all the parks, as well as photos from the various rides that snap your photo.  Some of the photos have animations on them.

Some with add ons

While most are normal still photos

Then there are the ones from rides.

Because of the purchase price of $169 it is not something we normally would buy, but are so thrilled to have it with our AP that we use it constantly.  This lets Gary actually be IN the photos of our trip, rather than the camera man all the time.

If this is an option you would use then add the $169 to your 10 day ticket price. $548.48 + $169= $717.48. Of course you only need to add it in for one person because you can download and share the photos. So either divide the cost up between the number of tickets or just add it on to one for your calculations. If not, then leave it out in your calculations.

Depending on where you eat the annual pass has a 10% -20% discount on meals.  Not all restaurants and quick service food venues offer it, but many do and the savings can add up quickly depending again on your personal preferences. 

A simple burger meal at a quick service can run close to $15 and if it is one that takes the AP discount (Cosmic Rays does not) then you save $1.50 to $3 per meal per person.

Periodically they do run free meal plans with the staying on site reservations, but then your rooms will cost you more.  You have specific places you have to eat and a limit on what items you can eat with those dining plans, so again it all depends on your personal preferences.

We personally prefer the discounts because we often split a meal and saving $2-$3 off that meal each when we aren't splitting a meal ( the meals are generally large at the park, so we often split the meals) is better for us.

There are also shopping discounts, and hotel room discounts if you are staying on site. They can range from 10% to 25% depending on the deal. Alas, it has been a long while since I personally have seen a discount on Ft. Wilderness.

If you are staying off site the next AP bonus is a huge savings that can add up very quickly.  It is parking.  Parking is $20 per day for your basic parking.  That parking is free with the AP. 

So if you are staying off site and paying for parking for 10 days that is a $200 savings right there.   Again, that would only apply to one ticket, because you pay by the car not by the guest.

If you are staying on site then parking is free. 

We also enjoy the speed we can now get into the gate by entering through the Annual Passholders only gate.  This combined with the "guests with no bags" security check point, which I have recently read now has an AP entrance for that as well,  can save a lot of time on getting into the parks. 

With the AP there are also discount tickets for recreational rentals, special events, special merchandise (I am wearing an AP holder Figment t-shirt right now), special pins if you are a pin collector, and so much more.

Whether or not the AP is the best purchase for you all depends on your wants and needs.  Oh and by the way only one ADULT member in your party has to have the AP to qualify for all the discounts for up to a certain number of people in your party.

So if you want the photo pass, room discounts, shopping discounts, etc then one AP could do your party. However, the passholder has to be the present when the pass is used.  Everyone, but the passholder, will have to purchase their tickets separately and there is no discount for getting those.  But if you are only going into the park x amount of days one ap and tickets for that number of days for the other members in your party may be the way to go.

For us an annual pass each is the only way to go because we simply don’t know how many days we will go in and there are times we will purchase separate meals and separate locations so we each need a pass to do that. Not to mention gift shopping for each other.

One more thing.  If when your annual pass does expire if you need more Disney, then you can get a discount on the renewal if you do it within a certain time period.  We are already doing a sinking fund for our renewal this winter, because we are going to spend part of the winter in Winter Garden, FL again and we love the lazy pace an AP allows.

Oh that is another bonus I hadn’t mentioned that is HUGE in our book.  A slower pace.  With a limited number of days you tend to go, go, go from rope drop to when they run you out of the park.  With an AP we go in around noon, stay until we get tired, then leave because we always have another day to go in.

Now that you have read all these options and comparisons you can generally use this same type of information for any amusement park as they all have similar discounts and options.

Hope this helps someone make their decision and maybe get more amusement park fun for less money.  

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